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Old 02-05-2012, 03:29 PM
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Arrow Inquisitives - Turn 3

Hawksley, Wireburn, Anselm

Outside of Keldoran’s, Hawksley approached Anselm.

"Anselm, could we offer you a pint? There is a small matter in which we could use your advice and expertise."

He nodded, "That sounds like a fine idea. Lead the way gentlemen!" He clapped the back of Quinn and patted the arm of Wireburn.

Anselm mouthed the word, “Gentleman?” while pointing a thumb at Wireburn, whose voice was still modulated in a pleasing contralto.

Hawksley shrugged. “She goes for months sometimes forgetting which voice it’s set to. Unless there’s need to sound in a particular fashion. It’s all the same to her. Sound waves and communication.”

Along the way, Hawksley excused himself when he caught sight of a familiar face lurking by a stall selling sweets. He excused himself from Wireburn and Anselm and hurried off to the sweet-seller. The warforged and the artificer watched while the scholar stopped to speak with a young boy wearing a cap. The warforged engaged the artificer in some chit-chat about his background.

“My unit back during the war had a staff artificer who put us back together again after battle, much like a surgeon. Tell me a little of your skills.”

There was a brief exchange of pleasantries (which involved Hawksley buying some sweets for the boy) followed by some serious discussion. The boy shook Quinn's hand before running off towards the lifts.

"Thank you for indulging me, gentlemen," Hawksley said as he joined back up with his friends. "I had some business to arrange, and saw the perfect opportunity to act. Shall we be off?"

After arriving at the local pub, Anselm sat with the inquisitives. The drinks arrived shortly.

"So what is on your mind?" the Artificer asked amiably.

"After a somewhat heated exchange, we had occasion to relieve some rather rude gentlemen of certain goods and chattels. There is some reason to believe that there may be more to some of these goods than meets the unaided and magically uneducated eye. Could we prevail upon you to examine them for us and let us know their specifics?"

Waving a hand nonchalantly, he said "That can be easily done. Come by my workshop tomorrow with the items, and I'll certainly have a look at them."

"Excellent. Thank you for your help, Anselm."

After having another sip, Anselm asked,"A shame this business with Keldoran. I came by today because of the item he commissioned, but there was another reason. My lab was ransacked yesterday and I was planning on talking to him about it. That is obviously out of the realm of possibilities, but maybe you can help me find out what happened?" He lowered his voice slightly, "The watch has been less than competent regarding the search."

"But of course! Perhaps we should go there now? In these matters, time is generally of the essence. I'm waiting on a message, but after I've received it, we can go to your workshop straight away. The sooner we can take a look, the better."

Anselm nodded, “We can surely go as soon as we are done here.” He punctuated his sentence with another drink of ale.

As if on cue, a boy of about twelve entered the establishment and spotted Hawksley across the room. (Actually, he spotted Wireburn, and simply figured the scholar would be nearby.) Another boy followed him in, smaller and younger, but fairly unremarkable.

“Mr Quinn,” the spindly youth said when he reached their table. He nodded politely to Sir Wireburn; always the respectful one, that Pip. “I managed to round up some of the kids, like you asked. “I found Torval, Locke, and Ellie. Locke and Ellie are where you said they should be, keeping an eye on things. Me and Torval dropped off that note like you asked. She was busy, but said she’d repar... replay... respite...”

“Reply?” Torval added helpfully.

“Reply! As soon as she could. Uh, sir,” Pip finished up. “Anya and Dorrin haven’t turned up yet, but I’ll check again for them later if’n you like, sir.”

Pips belatedly remembered to remove his hat since he was indoors. His straw coloured hair did a fairly good impression of a dandelion once he doffed his cap.

Hawksley smiled at the young fellow and tousled his hair.

“Well done, Pip. I need you to get Anya and Dorrin to me as soon as possible. And remember! If you see anything dangerous happening, you’re to raise the alarm and find me, not interfere, understand?”

Pip saluted. Well, he stuck the back of his left hand to his forehead in an approximation of a salute.

“Yes, sir. C’mon Torv, let’s get going!” The two left in a commotion, as is often the case with young boys.

“Well then, I just need to wait for their return. It shouldn’t be too long, I hope. How about you give us some background on what happened to your workshop?”

Anselm pinched the bridge of his nose as he thought of the mess that was left and he still had to deal with. He looked up at both inquisitives, “I came into the lab after visiting some clients in the early evening. I found it opened. with most of the filing cabinet trashed. My safe was also broken into.”

Hawksley nodded his attention, indicating silently that Anselm should carry on. He wanted his friend’s full set of impressions before asking questions.

Shaking his head, he continued, “At first, I couldn’t figure out what was taken as they left some items behind that were of obvious value. I think I know now what was taken. I was doing some research..” he then lowered his tone”..on combining potions of different types..”, then brought his tone back up,”.. all my papers are gone as well as my samples.” He sighs,” The Watch already did the rounds but it’s plainly evident that they will not be able to make any headway with this case.”

“Such a specific theft suggests someone familiar with the work you were doing,” observed Wireburn.

He cleared his throat, ”I’ve already alerted the people that commissioned this work, but I’m interested finding my research and samples.”

“Interesting. Fascinating area of research and not surprising that someone would want to abscond with your work. If I may ask, were you having any success in this matter?”

Anselm brightens up visibly at the question, “Why yes! I was really close to a breakthrough. I even had a couple of stable samples. I needed to confirm some results. I don’t want to turn the recipient into a frog as well as give him strength and grace. Although, at this point, I would hope that’s what my samples can do to those thieves.”

A pair of young dwarves showed up not long after. Anya and Dorrin reported to Hawksley with haste. Well, as much haste as young dwarves with short legs could muster.

“‘Allo teacher! We come as soon as could. Dorrin slow! Making good time once we gots on lifts.” Anya said, apparently the more talkative of the pair. Dorrin looked down at his boots, tugging at the corner of his newly growing mustache.

“Greetings Anya, Dorrin!”, Hawksley smiled at the new arrivals. Waving them in close, he continued, albeit in much quieter tones:

“Listen carefully: I need you both to keep an eye on a place for me. You remember Antos Keldoran, yes? Well, his kin, a human priestess named Raena Mordaine, has arrived to settle his affairs, but there are people who seek to do her harm. She does not yet realize how things run in Sharn, although I suspect she’s learning fast. Anyhow, you are to keep a discrete eye on her place and note who enters and leaves. Pip and Torv will be about to act as runners for messages; I want to be informed if people get into her place when she’s out. You are not to interfere: you are to stay unnoticed. I want you out of harm’s way. The only exception to this is as follows: if the lady comes home before we’ve returned and seeks to enter while there is someone else inside, you are to do your best to prevent her entry, including telling her that I have set you to this task, if necessary. I do not want her to be ambushed in her own home.”

He paused for a moment.

“Another thing. There has already been at least one changeling involved in all of this, so be ‘ware of potential imposters. If you must speak to Ms. Mordaine, do not presume that she is in fact she. If you must needs trust her for some reason, she must be able to tell you the following <Hawksley whispers into their ears, describing the episode of Sir Wireburn’s voice-changing and describing the instrument in detail>. If she cannot relate that event, beware and keep your distance. Also, Locke and Ellie should be following her, which should help in terms of verifying her identity.”

After making sure the pair were clear on the description of Raena and their instructions, Hawksley put some coin in their hands, subtly and surreptitiously.

“That’s expense money -- your payment comes after our meeting with the lady at four bells. Never forget, kids: always hold out for expense money.”

He smiled and sent them on their way. He turned back to his companions:

“Well, my friends... shall we away to the workshop?”
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...

Last edited by Rhakir; 02-05-2012 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 02-05-2012, 03:30 PM
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Default Hawksley, Wireburn, Anselm - Continued

Anselm’s laboratory was a short walk from the pub they just left. As they neared it, Anselm could see that something was definitely not right; the door was ajar. Again.

From the walkway outside, they couldn’t make out much. The thin sliver of the room that was viewable revealed that the worktops looked like they had been rummaged, leaving things in a state of disarray. There were no signs of damage to the locks at a casual glance, but Hawksley spied very tiny traces of brass shavings in the keyhole - someone had bumped the lock. The rain that fell while they were in the pub left puddles across the steps, but there were no tracks leading away from the slightly opened door...

Hawksley motioned them all to silence. Looking at Sir Wireburn, he mimed drawing sword and shield and pointed at the door, indicating that Wireburn should enter first. He drew his own rapier as he looked to Anselm.

“Do you have arguments of your own that you wish to prepare before we enter?”, he whispered.

The artificer nodded and took a dagger out. He was not well equipped at the moment as he was going to a friend’s place. He would not make the same mistake again. “I don’t have much on me, all my gear is in there. If we can wait a moment, I can infuse Sir Wireburn. Which infusion would you like, sir? Keen, Frost, Shock? Strength, Grace?”

“Let’s go with strength,” said Wireburn. “That never goes wrong.”

Anselm started casting his infusion. The casting proceeded slowly. The energy slowly left the artificer and infused the living construct. The glyphs on his body started to glow faintly, throbbing with power. As the energy settled into it, the glow faded and he returned to his normal self. “That should do it”.

Hawksley whispered to them both: “Right then; I read three of them, clustered together towards the back. The one in the middle is the one to pay attention to. Wireburn, you are good to do entry duty?” A brief moment of concentration and the air around him rippled for a moment

Wireburn readied a shield in his lower left and upper right hands. Two other hands grasped his adamantine blade. He nodded.

Anselm nodded his readiness to Quinn not quite sure what to do next.

Upon entering the laboratory, the trio see three men at the back of the room, at the office door. The man on the right was kneeling down, working a set of tools in an attempt to pick the lock. This one was wearing lightweight leather armour and dark clothing. Of the other two, the one on the left was dressed in similar fashion, while the one in the middle wore a dark red robe trimmed in grey and black. All three of them craned their heads around when they heard Wireburn’s heavy steps on the stone floor.

“Anselm d’Cannith,” the man in the middle said with obvious distaste as he recognised the artificer. He was a robust man in his mid-forties, with dark hair slicked back in the Karrnathi style, a touch of grey at his temples. His face was sharp-featured with a long, bent nose and prominent cheekbones. His eyes narrowed dangerously as he shrugged back his sleeves. His well-fed middle strained against his pouch-lined belt. A dagger seemed to be the only weapon on his person, but he gave the impression of power and menace that had nothing to do with martial prowess.

“Vhere is it?” the man demanded in a thick Karrnathi accent. “Vhat have you done vith it? I demand to know!” The man on the right stopped fiddling with the lock and seemed to be readying himself, though he didn’t seem to have any weapons at hand. The man on the left reached across for the sword at his side, but didn’t draw just yet as he waited to see what would happen next.

Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 02-05-2012, 03:42 PM
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Default June and Mardu

As they ambled away from Keldoran’s office, with a last wave at Raena bidding everyone goodbye, June took Mardu’s arm. She grinned a little, inside, at the looks they were getting. Half orc and human woman.

Once they were a safe distance away from there, she leaned up (and it was indeed a bit of a stretch reaching the tall man’s ear) and whispered, “Ok, next on our wonderful tour of the city. You’d mentioned something about visiting the watch and Captain...Hadris?, to find out more about the children they’d hired Keldoran to find. And then, perhaps lunch.”

She smiled up at him. Time passing, and mystery at hand, any slight was forgotten. “Or perhaps lunch first and THEN the watch.”

Mardu returned the smile, conscious of the change in June’s mood.

“Lunch first. On me,” he said as he steered her towards one of the lifts to access the upper or lower parts of the tower and city. They caught a lift headed down. “I have someplace in mind that you might like.”

Dava Gate was an area of the city where craftsman and tradesman worked side by side. Artisans worked in warehouses or studios adjacent to solicitors and scribes. Smiths plied their trade next to barbers. Residential areas crowded in and around the businesses, usually owned by the business people for themselves or for their employees. And where there were people working and living, there were places to eat...

‘Flavor of the Marches’ was a large open business with wide awnings to shade the scattered tables on the open terrace. There were a few potted palms and palmettos to add a touch of authenticity, but what really drew in the customers was the smells emanating from the kitchens. June could smell them half a tower block away. It was like breathing in a little bit of home; spicy sauces and char-grilled meats with herbs, succulent grilled vegetables on skewers, and fireshower wine to wash it all down with. She could almost taste every bit of it just from the wonderful aroma she detected so far away.

It was crowded at lunchtime, the staff busy preparing orders and making tables available for new arrivals. Quite a few of the people running the business were orcs and half-orcs. It was a little slice of the Marches nestled into the side of a tower in Sharn.

Junes eyes lit up with wonder, and perhaps a bit of homesickness. “I didn’t know they had a place like this in Sharn.”

“There are a couple of other ones in other parts of the city, but this one was close, and is probably the best,” Mardu said with a grin. He knew it would bring back some memories for June; it always made him think of home when he came here. He waved a greeting to the large orc woman manning the open-pit grill. The woman’s face split into a huge grin and she gestured for the couple to take a table near the kitchens that just opened up.

June couldn’t help looking at everything. The simple art, the presence of orcs and half orcs was something she’d not had much of for these 3 years. She nearly tripped over a table on their way back to their own seating and had to give the occupants a charming smile and hasty “Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I’d better pay more attention to where I’m walking.”

Once seated, she smiled at Mardu. “Tell me they have rat-on-a-stick.” (Which wasn’t actually rat, but was delicious.)

“They call it by the orcish, gurrak-ta-misch. Couldn’t have a Marches place without it,” he grinned. “Of course, I hear the one place down in Terminus actually uses sewer rats...” He shuddered at the thought.

A young half-orc boy came to wipe their table down and take their orders. He couldn’t have been more than ten summers by the look of him. He spilled out a string of daily specials in orcish, the repeated them in common for the golden-haired human.

Just as they were about to order, a large shape seemed to loom over their table. June looked up to see the orc woman that was cooking. She had to be easily three hundred pounds, a large midsection accounting for most of that weight. She had a warm grandmotherly look to her that reminded the sorceress of a few of the servants in her old home.

“Mardu! Long time no see, boy! You keep outta trouble?” she said, clapping the muscular man hard enough on the back to make him wince. “Don let him treat you wrong, girl. He never come with girls before. Wonder if him furrukht,” she said, making an odd gesture with her hand. “My daughters be not liking this if dey see him wit pretty ooman! Good ting dey not here now, eh Mardu?”

“Golind, this is a very good friend of mine,” Mardu told her. “I’ve not seen Junie in three years, so be nice to her!”

“You pretty ooman, too. Mardu have good taste. Maybe not furrukht after all,” Golind said with a cheerful disregard for Mardu’s feelings. She got a few looks from some of the other patrons, but if they knew what she was saying, they didn’t comment in any way. A couple of the staff smiled, but went about their jobs without saying anything.

Golind fussed over Mardu and June for a few more minutes before being called back to the kitchen. She shouted some rude comments in orcish about not wanting to be interrupted, but she said her goodbyes to the couple and left them to their lunch.

June quirked a brow at Mardu. “Furrukht? Is there something you’re not telling me?” She managed to contain her grin...barely.

“Heh. Do I look furrukht to you?” Mardu joked. “Seriously, she just wants to embarrass me. I haven’t taken a mate yet, that’s all. And her daughters have been trying to get my attention for a while. They’re just not my type, though...” He cleared his throat and called the serving boy back so they could place their orders.

“What is your type?” June asked, both with honest curiosity, and with a bit of a tremble inside at what his answer may be. As the server approached, she fell silent, not wanting to embarrass him further.

“So, what did you think of Keldoran’s niece?” Mardu finally asked, changing the subject, after they made their orders. “And what about all those other people that turned up?

Junes face sobered. “She seems on the level, however I don’t know if she’s going to be able to think clearly enough to handle both the threats to her, and this investigation at the same time as grieving.” She went quiet a moment to go over the others there in her mind.

“The first two, the warforged and the talkative boy...I can’t tell anything about the warforged. I don’t trust the boy. Very much not open. Hiding something...”

“Quinn?” Mardu clarified. “I thought he was very open. Perhaps too open. But I suspect you aren’t talking about that, are you...”

She shook her head. “No. All that flowery speech is a mask to hide the real boy I think.”

“Perhaps,” Mardu said carefully. “I was watching him and the warforged. I could never manage to read those constructs very well. They’ve got no facial expressions to read, and I can’t follow their eyes like I can other people.” He rubbed his bald scalp in thought before continuing.

“Those two definitely had a lot to say about things. Their run-in with the Boromars, their mysterious client that wants them to look into Keldoran’s investigations. I don’t think Quinn was lying about any of it, but he was choosing those flowery words very carefully. I could see it in his eyes.”

“Exactly.” She made a pattern on the table with her cutlery as she thought out loud. “And the elf, he’s been through something. He seemed distant and uninvolved with what was going on around him. I don’t think it was arrogance though. The other boy, Ansel I think? He seemed pretty straightforward.”

“Anselm d’Cannith,” Mardu supplied. “He is pretty straightforward. He’s made a few things for a couple of Watchmen I know. He’s a good man.” The half-orc was privately amused that the young woman next to him kept calling them ‘boys’.

“The elf looks like he’s been through hell. I suspect he got all those scars during the War. Might be why he’s so withdrawn as well. I’ve seen some veterans that are like that, only a little worse. All they do is sit around and drool all day.” He shuddered at the thought. “Not something I’d want to have to live with or be like for the rest of my life.”

“That’s really sad.” June nodded. “Once I was asked to find a missing family artifact in Wroat. The family was hoping it would bring one of theirs out of his withdrawn state. He’d faced some horrific battle, they didn’t say which one. He was much like the elf.”

Mardu nodded silently. Their food arrived just then, forestalling further conversation until the server left again

“What about their talk of the misplaced child? You think it has something to do with the missing kids Antos was looking into?” Mardu asked.

June nodded. “Everything is a pattern. Part of the great prophecy that moves this world. They have to be connected. Either in actual being, or in who it is who took them, and who left that ‘urchin’ the elf spoke about. I think if we find the kids, we’ll be on the right path.”
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 02-05-2012, 03:47 PM
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Default June and Mardu (Continued)

“Well, we can ask her about it when we see her tomorrow morning again,” Mardu said as he juggled the hot food on his fingertips. “I wonder if everything that we saw, everyone in that office, is somehow part of the same pattern. I’m no prophet, but it’s pretty odd that we all came together at the same time in the same place. I just can’t seem to shake this feeling that we’re standing on the edge of some sort of huge chasm; there’s no telling how far down it goes, and we can’t see the other side yet.”

“Yes, we can ask how the interview with the urchin went. But I want to know more about the missing children before then. And that last man, I can’t remember his name. He also seemed a bit closed. Maybe that was just grief, though, for his friend.”

Mardu’s face soured as he thought about the last person there, though he couldn’t speak just yet with his mouth full of food.

June took a bite of her food and closed her eyes in sheer pleasure. Once she could speak again she looked at Mardu with a certain intensity. “It is all connected. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t more important than just a dead inquisitive or a few missing children. The prophecy wouldn’t care. The pattern is deeper and more twisted than that. More dangerous.”

“You may be right,” Mardu agreed. “And I’m not sure about that last guy there. There was something about him that struck me as being out of place. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m not sure it had to do with grief.” He shook his head, unable to articulate the thought any further.

She quirked her head at him. “I never really thought of you having such insight. More than meets the eye, aren’t you. The food is delicious here. Thank you.”

“My pleasure, Junie. I thought it might be nice to have a little taste of home,” Mardu said, brushing aside her compliment. He raised his cup of fireshower wine. “A toast. To friends reunited.”

She raised her cup, but her eyes began to dance with a slightly naughty light. “A toast, to a little ‘taste’ of home.”

“To a little taste of home,” Mardu agreed.

The food was an astonishing array of spices, sauces, and flavours from all over the Shadow Marches. The meats were grilled to perfection, then coated in a sticky sweet and savoury sauce that made the mouth water. The vegetables were lightly seasoned before being grilled on skewers, served with more of the tangy sauces that are popular in the Marches. All in all, it was definitely a taste of home for June...

After the two of them finish off their meals, it was time to head off again.

“I think we should head over to the Watch offices now,” Mardu said after settling the tab with Golind. “We can go in through the training area. You can see where I work.”

The couple made their way to Sword Point, the part of the Central Plateau where the Sharn Watch headquarters resided. The offices were part of the Sword Point Garrison, the part of the watch responsible for Central. It was home to over 500 Watchmen on rotating shifts. That didn’t include the administration or ranking officers that saw to the day to day affairs of the Watch. Mardu was signed on as a trainer, teaching new recruits how to be Watchmen. Not an easy task, considering what he was given to work with at times. He did the best he could, hoping he offered enough to the new recruits so they would survive on the streets and bridges of the City of Towers...

The training hall had a separate entrance from the rest of the garrison. It was a lot easier to get through there than the front entrance, Mardu told June. With all the people coming and going for official business, administration, Watchmen on their rounds, and citizens filing claims and reports, the main entry was always crowded and chaotic. From where they entered, they could see the front doors and the throng of people trying to get in and/or out.

“Welcome to my office,” Mardu said with a grin as he held the door open for June.

The training halls of the Watch were set up as a series of classrooms and workrooms branching off from a main open gymnasium. Most of the floor of the gym was covered with padded mats, and racks of wooden weapon replicas were spaced across the far wall. Heavy punching bags and articulated mannequins could be seen clustered about the near wall, and shelves with padded armours of various description lined the walls near a hallway marked ‘Showers’. Surprisingly, the place did not smell of sweat or old socks as June imagined a place looking like this might. There was a strong smell of cleanness with an underlying hint of leather polish and medicinal herbs.

“This is very different than I imagined it would be.” She murmmered to him as they passed through.

Mardu lead June through the main gymnasium to a set of stairs that led up to the records bureau. An entire floor of the tower was dedicated to maintaining the Watch’s paperwork for the current year, Mardu explained. Previous years’ records were stored at another location in the city, after being carefully inventoried.

“Desk Sergeant,” Mardu greeted the grey-haired leathery looking man at the single window in the Records lobby. “I need to access some case information. I’d like you to get this young woman anything and everything she needs.” He drew out a badge, a bronze and silver medallion on a chain he wore beneath his leather armour, presented it to the sergeant, and scrawled his name on a register.

“Righty-ho, sir,” the sergeant replied after he studied the badge and signature. “What kin I do fer you, miss?”

June cast a questioning glance at Mardu. Seemed he had more influence than he’d let on. Turning back to the desk sergeant, she smiled and responded.

“Sir, I need to see the records on the last case that Antos Keldoran had taken on for the watch. The missing children? The complete records, please, from the first reports and investigation on the missing children, to when he took the case, to what the watch has found since then, if anything.”

“Is that everything, miss?”

“For the moment.” She grinned at the sergeant conspiratorially. “But once I’ve digested that information, then, good sir, I will be back for more on Keldoran’s unfortunate demise. We may even become good friends over the amount of information I utilize, Sergeant?...” She paused to give the man a chance to introduce himself.

“Hurst, ma’am. Sergeant Malcolm Hurst,” he supplied happily, quite taken with the attentions of a beautiful young woman. His smile revealed a row if surprisingly straight, white teeth. It took June a moment to realise they were dentures. “And who do I haf the pleasure of assistin’, friend?”

Mardu placed a hand on her shoulder to reassure her. It was her choice to tell him, after all.

“Sometimes they call me the prophetess. But you can call me June.”

Sergeant Hurst checked the records logs to see where the requested information would be found. With a wink to the golden-haired beauty, he ambled off in search of the files.

“You certainly have a way with people,” Mardu chuckled. “Just don’t break his ancient little heart, okay?”

After a bit of waiting, June and Mardu could hear some muttered cursing followed by a muffled thump from somewhere in the rows of shelves. “Ah’m okay, ah’m okay,” Hurst called out. A few minutes later, he returned carrying two boxes of documents, one balanced precariously on top of the other.

“These’re the records you asked fer,” the old man wheezed as he slid the boxes onto the counter. “The full one covers those missin’ yutes. The othur one is fer the dwarf feller. Shame they ain’t got much on it though. I just needs you to sign these out, and have ‘em back as soon as yer done with ‘em. I’m sure the Master Sergeant here will countersign the releases.”

“They’re all being signed out by me, Mal. I don’t want the brass to get bent out of shape over this,” Mardu said as he scribbled his signature in the register.

Hurst put his finger to the side of his nose and gave the half-orc and the pretty woman an exaggerated wink.

“Anythin’ else you need, jus’ come ask fer me,” Hurst said to June with a wide smile on his weathered face.

“I will indeed, Sergeant Hurst. It’s nice to find such a wonderful man in such a surprising place.” With another smile at him, she moved eagerly to the boxes. “Is there a quiet place we can go through these?”

“We’ve got an office in the training hall we can use,” Mardu told her as he hefted the boxes. “We should have some peace and quiet for a while.”

The Training office was nothing more than a small room with a single door, a fairly worn desk, a glowstone lamp, and a trio of mismatched chairs. Apparently, the budget that training received wasn’t spent on office furniture or decor. Mardu placed the boxes on the desk and pulled out two chairs.

Once they were seated and quiet, June didn’t open the boxes right away. Instead, she lightly ran her hands over the outsides, eyes tracing the patterns of the right angles, the grain of the board, the markings on the outside, that would be words if she weren’t looking, instead, at the greater pattern that they belonged to.

And then she opened the first box and began reading and the rest if the world faded away for a time.

The first thing she came across was a list of the children. It was strikingly similar to something she remembered seeing in Keldoran’s office, but something about it didn’t seem quite right. She couldn’t figure out what it was just yet. Perhaps if she was able to see the page in Keldoran’s office again when she and Mardu returned...
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Default June and Mardu (Continued)

Name / Sex / Race / Age / Reported Missing / From Where
Rhysson Alton / M / Hum / 11 / 12 Zarantyr 998 / Safe Haven Orphanage
Avril Landru / F / Hum / 10 / 20 Zarantyr 998 / Safe Haven Orphanage
Mathis Elessil / M / Khor / 8 / 27 Zarantyr 998 / Safe Haven Orphanage
Liriel Corisanth / M / Hum / 12 / 3 Olarune 998 / Crossroads
Grundel Murkis / M / Hum / 11 / 9 Olarune 998 / Nelson Rystead Home
Kyla Ryss / F / Hum / 10 / 16 Olarune 998 / Crossroads

There was very little background information on the children themselves aside from their names and which orphanage reported them missing. There were brief descriptions of appearance and clothes, but nothing to really help June piece things together. Witness statements, not that anyone actually saw the children taken, were the longest documents. People caring for the children, people living next to or near the orphanages, passers-by that the Watch came across when responding to the original calls. A lot of statements that amounted to little useful information. It seemed that Sister Olivette Sydower was the most helpful of those interviewed, providing decent information on the children missing from her care. Among the reports were messages left by her following up on the investigations.

A chillingly final sounding report said that the cases were being handed over to Antos Keldoran, on order of Captain Hadris, and all further information pertaining to the missing children was to be handed over to the inquisitive. Hadris signed the order himself.

The folders in the second box were of little use investigating Keldoran’s murder. There were witness statements from the warehouse owners and workers that saw the body. There were the initial reports from the first Watchmen on scene, giving mediocre information at best. A note attached to the outside of the folders stated that the open investigation was being handled by Inspector Reed Galatrys.

Mardu sifted through the files as well, but he did little to interrupt or disturb June as she concentrated. Only after she stopped to stretch her legs did he speak up.

“We’ve been at this for a couple of hours,” he said, much to June’s surprise that so much time had passed already. “Why don’t we return these files, take our notes with us, and call it a day. I think I have to reschedule some training sessions for a few specific Watchmen, after reading some of this garbage they wrote up. And I’d like to actually see if Inspector Galatrys would like a hand on this. It might be worth it to stick my head in his office for a moment...”

“Galatry’s” June mused, eyes narrowed in thought. “And Hadris. What these files seem to be saying is that someone doesn’t want either investigation to succeed. I think you’re right to talk to Galatry’s. I...I think I’d like a word with Captain Hadris. Something is wrong here. The inefficiency of the watch in so many things at once. I don’t think that’s an accident. I also want to talk to Sister Sydower. She seems to be the only one who honestly cares. Will they miss the list of the children if I ‘borrow’ it for a bit? Or is there something I can copy it onto?”

Mardu was thoughtful as he gathered some paper and pens for them to start copying. He sat opposite her at the battered desk. June noticed he had surprisingly neat, if tiny, handwriting.

“Talking to Captain Hadris shouldn’t be a problem,” Mardu said finally. “He works nights, so we can come back later tonight if you like. And I think talking to Sister Sydower is a good idea too. Right now, I’m just thinking about training these guys how to write reports more accurately.”

She grinned at Mardu as she wrote. “I have a feeling those watchmen will be rather taken aback to run afoul of the stern taskmaster, Mardu.”

Mardu smiled. It wasn’t one of his normal happy smiles, either. This one was a little disturbing...

She finished the sad list and her face sobered as she sat, fingers brushing the tops of the pages in the box of missing children reports. “Rhysson Alton, something--ril Landru, Mathis Ele--something-or-other. The names on those cigarette papers are the first three kids. I wonder if Keldoran was killed so he wouldn’t find them?”

“That is a distinct possibility,” Mardu agreed. “Maybe he was getting too close to figuring it out. We should be keeping that in mind ourselves.”

Removing her hands from the boxes, she grimaced at him. “Can I sit here and think a bit while you return these?” The half-orc nodded as he collected the records boxes. He pushed the door closed as he left, giving June a bit of privacy while he returned the boxes.

Taking the list, she spent those few minutes committing those children’s names to memory. Waiting for one to jump out at her as ‘first’.

Not too surprisingly, the first name on the list seemed to tug at Junes awareness. Perhaps it was because of the handwriting, or because it was at the top of the page. Something about the name ‘Rhysson’ seemed to just stand out...

“You okay?” Mardu asked, clearly concerned. She had no idea how long she’d been staring off lost in thought, nor how long Mardu had been there.

“The first child. The name. There is something...” June sat and just looked blankly at him for a moment. Her mind still working on the discrepancy. “There was a paper in Keldoran’s office. Something is different. I need to see it again.” She balled her small hands into fists. “Is it that the name is a false one? Or a piece of a longer name I should know?...Rhys Son. Is there anyone of importance here named Rhys?”

“Not that I know of,” Mardu said thoughtfully. “It sounds like a Cyran name though. I knew someone named Larisson. I’m not sure what taht might have to do with the children. They were orphans. Most likely because of the War...” He shook his head and looked June over more closely.

“C’mon,” he insisted, taking her hands, “Let’s get going. You look like you need some rest.”

Mardu led her into the Watch offices before they left so he could find Inspector Galatrys. June never realised just how big the Watch headquarters was, nor how many people worked there. The offices were a maze of corridors and stairs with doors at irregular intervals. People, mostly civilian administrators, moved about in and out of various rooms, all with a purpose, all in a hurry. Watchmen hustled through the halls as well, some with witnesses in tow, others with suspects in custody. It all added to the chaos. It was enough to make June’s head swim...

Inspector Galatrys had an office three floors up from the training hall. He was in, working his way through a stack of paperwork. He barely glanced up as Mardu slid in through the doorway. His mustache quivered as he mumbled a brief welcome.

“I’m a might busy, sergeant,” he said without looking up. “I’ll be with you in a moment.” When he glanced through the door at June, who waited in the hallway, he stopped writing.

“Is that who I think it is, sergeant?” he asked quietly. “Is she the--”

“Yes sir,” Mardu replied with a steady voice. “She’s come to offer her assistance to the Watch. I’d like your permission to let her consult on the Keldoran case.”

The long, drooping mustache quivered as he looked at June.

“Is this true, young lady?” the inspector asked with a gravelly voice. It gave June the impression that he’d smoked a lot when he was younger. “Please, do step in so we can speak. Close the door after her, Mardu.”

Mardu silently mouthed ‘Sorry’ to the sorceress as she slid into the room. He looked more than a little concerned for her, and she had to admit that she was feeling a bit off...

“Inspector. I’ve heard good things about you.” She held out a hand to him. She didn’t smile as she normally would have, but her manner was gracious. “I would like to help you with Keldoran’s case. He was too good a man, much like yourself, to not do everything I can to make sure his killer comes to justice. Hopefully, that will help mitigate any risk to yourself as well.” She sat gracefully in the small chair across from him while watching his face carefully to gauge his reactions to both her offer and the subtle hint that he may be in danger.

“Your reputation precedes you, dear lady,” the inspector said as he leaned across the desk to take June’s hand. “AuJeunotte Kindflame! I read all about you in the Chronicle. By gods, your prophecies are astounding. I would most certainly be honoured to have you look into the case,” Galatrys insisted. Then his expression became grave. “I’m afraid I’ve reached a bit of a dead end, if you’ll pardon the expression. No new leads, you understand.”

June studied the man in silence, absorbing his words as well as his expressions. He seemed genuinely open about his admiration of June’s reputation, which seemed a bit odd in someone who moments ago appeared so obviously rigid and proper; she saw the sparkle in his eyes that she’d grown used to seeing in admirers and followers. She also noted his frustration when he spoke of the case. He had grown quiet so suddenly, his expression instantly returning to the rigid and proper facade. But he didn’t seem worried or fearful. No, he was too self-reliant in her opinion...
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Default June and Mardu (Continued)

“If you don’t mind, Inspector, I would like to borrow the case file,” Mardu said, breaking the tableau. “I think it would be beneficial to the training department to work with the Prophetess. Perhaps we can gain some insight into her methods, to help train our own--”

“Yes, yes, Mardu,” Galatrys interrupted. “I agree we could stand to learn a thing or two from the dear lady. I will make a note to the duty officer that you are looking into this. For training purposes, of course.” He located the case and handed it over to Mardu.

“Thank you, sir,” Mardu replied smartly. “Excellent idea, sir.”

“Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get back to this caseload,” Galatrys said dismissively. “I appreciate your insight into the Keldoran matter, Miss Kindflame. I am most interested to see what our sergeant can learn from you!” He smiled kindly, then went immediately back to his work, expecting the pair to let themselves out...

Perhaps it’s time to stir that stoic pot, June thought. “Well, that is where I can help you. For instance, are you aware that Keldoran was not killed where he was found. He was killed several blocks away and his killer left behind their clothing.” She smiled at him, finally, when his eyes flew to hers. “Yes, I found that this morning. Fortunately, even when it’s not fully clear, the prophecy doesn’t lie.” She stood gracefully and extended a gracious hand to her dismissive host. If he was part of a conspiracy, he would know she was a threat now which may help them uncover that if, indeed, it existed.. If he wasn’t, he would, hopefully, have more trust in her.

Galatrys’s mustache quivered as he looked up at June. He harrumphed and stood to shake her hand, remembering his manners finally. His expression was a bit closed however. It appeared he did not like the fact that June had discovered something he had not. But there was no hostility or threat in his manner that the sorceress could detect.

Once they had left the room she smiled wryly at Mardu. Speaking quietly so her words were only for him. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted him to know that we’d been together...investigating. So I’ve left that for you to disclose or not.”

“I’m sure that I’m guilty by association now, at the very least,” Mardu replied grinning. Together. He noticed her emphasis on the word, and made a mental note to have a long talk with her later. There were so many things he wanted to say, but hadn’t found the right time to yet...

A yawn surprised her. “Oh my! I’m so sorry.” She was tired. So much concentration today must have taken it’s toll. “I think an interview with the orphanage the first child came from and then, rest. We meet with Raena tomorrow morning, right?” It didn’t even occur to her to ask if Mardu planned on investigating with her the next day. He already seemed so integral to this pattern. It also didn’t occur to her to check the time of day either, as lost in the investigation as she’d been.

By the time they made it outside again, the sun was well on its way towards the horizon. A rumble sounded unceremoniously in June’s midsection. Time to satisfy her appetite, she thought to herself with a smile...

Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Default Han

After parting company from everyone at Keldoran’s office, Han headed off on his own into the city. He contemplated all that he had heard from each of the different visitors (there were a lot of visitors!) as he found a lift and made his way to the lower levels.

Nobody seemed to notice the average-looking human façade that he wore, which was just as he liked it. It made moving around the city easier for him. Changelings in their natural form were not a common sight in Sharn, nor a very welcome one. It was an interesting contradiction; going about in his natural form would cause most people to instantly distrust him because he could change form, whereas going about disguised as another race would allow him to blend in and be more readily accepted...

That’s what surprised him most when he saw the changeling walking towards him in broad daylight in the middle of the city. The woman was wearing a simple outfit consisting of a white blouse with a black leather vest over a pair of dark grey trousers. Her boots had buckles all the way up her calves, and she jingled faintly as she walked. A pair of dark blue tinted glasses perched on the end of her almost non-existent nose. She had pale grey skin, long silky white hair, and milky white irises that seemed to be looking straight at him.

Correction; she was looking straight at him.

Not only that, but she was walking straight towards him as well.

“Greetings, brother,” she said, stopping in his path an arm’s length away. She cocked her head to the side and put her hands in the front pockets of her trousers. A lop-sided smile tugged at the corner of her rather featureless mouth as she studied the face Han wore. “Not bad. Not bad at all. I like the eyes the most. Very convincing.”

Han smirked a touch. “ Well met sister. What gave it away? Walk? Eyes? Or did you have me followed and come to meet me on the way back from my errands?”

“I never send anyone to do my own work,” she said with a chuckle. “I saw you down in the lower wards on your way up here. I was hoping to have a word with you. Have you some time? I’ll buy you a drink and we can talk business.”

Han noded. “Usually the best way. Less things to go wrong. I really don't have anything better to do, so lead on. So long as its a public place.”

“You can call me Shae,” she told him casually. “I know a place a few towers over that has excellent food and beer that isn’t watered down...”

Han pointed the way.

“Lead on. You can call me Raul for now. Until one gets to know you better, and why one was following me. It tends to make one nervous, if you know what I mean.”

“One does,” Shae said with a mischievous smile, taking on Han’/Raul’s affectation. She led his across busy public bridges and shared a lift with a small crowd on the way to their destination.

“It’s called the Broken Bridge, since it used to face a bridge that collapsed a couple of decades ago,” she told him as they neared the establishment. It was a simple tavern built into the side of a tower, much like the Broken Anvil was; perhaps there was something about the names that meant they had to protrude from
stout structures like tumors? There was music playing, people eating and drinking, and a few games of cards in the back. It seemed crowded enough to suit their mutual best interests.

Shae waved down the barkeep and ordered a couple of their finest ales to be sent to a booth she saw open up. She then grabbed Raul’s arm and drew him to the table like an old familiar friend. The sight of a changeling with a human did draw a few stares, but most simply ignored the spectacle in favour of food or drink. Raul reminded himself not to appear like this if he ever returned to this place in the future, in case there was trouble.

“So, as I said, I saw you down in the lower wards,” Shae told him without preamble after their drinks arrived. She had a faint accent that was hard to place; there was the faintest drawing out of S’s and she rolled her R’s a tiny bit. “Pretty smooth trick, changing shape through a tunnel. I wasn’t sure it was you until I watched a bit longer. Your stride gave you away.” She smiled warmly. “Anyway, my employer is looking for a few Faces to do a job. We’re recruiting new talent because we had a bit of contract negotiation issues with our old crew. You know how that goes. Interested in earning some easy money?”

Face was street slang for changelings, those that could change their appearances at will. It was a dubious moniker at best, and most changelings that weren’t The Right Kind of People resented the implications. But the Right Kind, they knew it wasn’t meant as an insult or accusation. It was a simple matter of fact. And pride.

Raul chuckled a bit. “No job is ever simple. No money earned is ever easy. Usually ones making the claim are either looking for fools, dupes or end up dead. Whats the job?”

“The job we’re looking to do would bring in a ten thousand payout. Each. All you gotta do is show up at a specific place at a specific time, and turn over a specific key to a specific dwarf. The rest, as they say, is a walk in the park.” Shae’s milky white eyes sparkled, if such a thing could be said of milky white eyes. Her eager expression seemed to beg Raul to consider the job offer. It was an obvious plan to rob Bank Kundarak, so simple in her brief pitch. He’d heard of this kind of thing before, with varying degrees of success depending on which side of the story that you heard. The truth of the matter was, it had worked at some point, possibly more than once. But the dwarves of House Kundarak were wise to it now. It would be risky...

Raul leaned back and took a pull on his mug.

“So let me see if I understand this correctly. A ten thousand gold piece pay out to do a job being some place at a specific time, as a specific person, turning over a key to a certain other person. A job that you could easily do yourself. But you’re offering it to a random stranger like myself.”

Raul slid one hand casually off the table, before looking her in the eyes and continuing.

“Darling I was born at night but not last night. Like I said earlier, any job that sounds simple or too easy is usually too good to be true.”

Shae noticed his movement and conspicuously placed both of her hands in plain view on the table top as a sign of good faith.

“Well, well, well. You’re sharper than you look,” she said with a wry smile. “Good. You’re not fool enough to fall for that one. That’s good to know.” She waved over the serving girl and ordered two more ales for the table.

“So, now that we’ve got that silliness out of the way, how about we talk about the real reason I asked you to join me,” she said as she leaned back in her seat. “How would you like to get even with the person that made your friend dustmans?”

Raul cocked his head, then put his hand back on the table as well.

“I’m interested, naturally. Although curious as to why you’re involved and what you get out of it of course. Nothing is free in the world after all.”

“I get a favour out of it, of course,” Shae smiled. “In other words, your word, your bond, that you owe me a service for giving you information that will lead you to Chauncey’s killer. Verifiable information, I might add.” She seemed to be enjoying herself; the look on Raul’s face when she casually dropped Chase’s real name made her eyes dance merrily.

“I’m a Nose. I sell information. What you do with the information I give you is your business. My price is a favour in kind. I’m not asking you to sell your soul. Just information I want when I want it. I just needed to make sure you aren’t the dumb, shallow, greedy type to sign on to an obvious scam. If you were, I wouldn’t be able to rely on your word for payment, would I, darling?”

Raul leaned forward, meeting her sparkling eyes. “Sounds great. However, again, how do I know the information is good? Or that you don’t have a different agenda that your laying at someone else’s feet, setting a different hound to a problem? No offense of course.”

“None taken,” Shae said as she sipped at her ale. “I guess you could say it all comes down to a matter of trust. As I said, my information is verifiable. I won’t ask any favours in return until you’re completely satisfied that the information is solid. You have my word and my bond on that. Besides, it may be months before I need to call in a favour from you. I’m going to have to trust that you’ll keep your end of the bargain, you know...”

Raul nodded in reply. “Fair enough. I believe we have a deal. So who is this person?”

“Ever heard of the Crimson Rose?” Shae asked conspiratorially. The Crimson Rose was a legendary Blade for hire, a Silencer. Her reputation was that of a cold-blooded and efficient killer that was well worth the exorbitant rates she charged. Nobody marked by the Crimson Rose ever lived. And nobody ever lived to cross her, either. If a deal went bad, Crimson Rose went after the defaulting party and made them pay in their own blood. And nobody knew who she really was.

When Shae saw the look creeping across Raul’s face, she grew serious.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said soberly. “And I do know what I’m talking about. I know who she really is. But we can’t finish this conversation here. Come with me and I’ll fill you in on the rest.”

Though she was talking to Raul, her eyes were fixed on the front door of the Broken Bridge. Rather, her eyes were on the pair that just entered through the front door. And she looked anxious...

Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Default Raena and Durion

“Thank you for being patient, Master Durion. Shall we see to the misplaced child now?” Raena said as she locked up the office. The sky had begun to cloud over again, as was typical with early spring in Breland, so Raena had grabbed her cloak.

“I hope we’re able to figure out who the poor boy is and where he came from. Do you have any idea who this ‘M’ is that wrote the note on my uncle’s card?”

Durion thought for a moment, stopping in the street to consider. “I really have no idea, my dear lady.”

“Well that’s not very reassuring,” Raena said flatly. “That’s actually kind of disturbing...”

It started to rain by the time Durion steered Raena to the sky taxi platform around the tower from the office. The rain was quite chilly this far up, but neither seemed to mind it much. Raena simply drew the hood of her cloak over her head and held the weatherproof garment closed at the front.

Durion didn’t seem to even register the rain. It dripped off his uniform and the bill of his cap in rivulets, but did not penetrate. He did not even hunch his shoulders.

There were a few other people waiting for a taxi at the platform, and there were a couple of the boat-shaped vessels lining up to whisk them away. Raena kept a wary eye on each of the strangers around them, taking Han’s warning to heart. Mr Quinn had also warned her of possible danger, so she was definitely on the lookout for halflings; none presented themselves in her immediate vicinity.

When it was their turn to board the next taxi, the priestess was relieved to see it had a wooden roof over the benches. It would be nice to have some relief from the weather now that it had begun to come down more heavily.

“So, what can you tell me about how you came across the boy?” Raena asked as the sky taxi eased away from Cavendish Tower. “Where exactly did you find him, and what was he doing?”

Durion held nothing back. The library, the storeroom, and the item that had been taken, as damaged as it was reported to be, all seemed relevant to solving the mystery.

Raena stared at Durion, not quite sure of what to make of the tale.

“So, a vault at Morgrave was broken into. The boy was found in the vault. Unharmed. And he doesn’t remember anything. Not even his name,” she said, counting off each point on her fingers. “And someone, known only as ‘M’, left my uncle’s card in his pocket telling you to start here. Well, to start at the office, actually.” She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to absorb all of the information.

“The Vault door was lifted off by someone or something powerful, possibly transformed by potions or magic of some kind. And the item taken was an artefact found in Xen’drik. A very powerful item that would be worth a lot of money for the value of the dragonshard it was made from, let alone how much it could be worth for its magical properties,” Raena summarised.

“It seems to me that you’re being played, Master Durion,” she said finally. “I don’t mean to be so blunt, but I can’t think of a reason why someone would leave you such a blatant clue for such an elaborate endeavour. Can you tell me anything about your past that might tie into this somehow? Do you suppose that someone you know is responsible for all of this?”

Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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